Caring as the unacknowledged matrix of evidence-based nursing

Journal of Medical Ethics (2023)
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In this article, we explicate evidence-based nursing (EBN), critically appraise its framework and respond to nurses’ concern that EBN sidelines the caring elements of nursing practice. We use resources from care ethics, especially Vrinda Dalmiya’s work that considers care as crucial for both epistemology and ethics, to show how EBN is compatible with, and indeed can be enhanced by, the caring aspects of nursing practice. We demonstrate that caring can act as a bridge between ‘external’ evidence and the other pillars of the EBN framework: clinical expertise; patient preferences and values. Drawing on an influential EBN handbook, section 1 presents the aims and features of EBN, including the normative principle that EBN should take place within a ‘context of caring’. We aim to understand this context and whether it can be neatly detached from the EBN framework, as the handbook seems to suggest. In section 2, we highlight the grounds for resistance to EBN from the nursing community, before mounting the argument that nursing practices can be understood fruitfully through feminist care ethics and/or virtue ethics lenses. In section 3, we deepen that analysis using Dalmiya’s concepts of care-knowing and care as a hybrid ethico-epistemic virtue, which are ideally suited to the complex practices of nursing. In section 4, we bring this rich understanding of care into conversation with EBN, showing that its framework cannot be adequately theorised without paying proper attention to care. Caring can be neither an innocuous background assumption of nor an afterthought to the EBN framework.

Author Profiles

Victoria Min-Yi Wang
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Brian Baigrie
University of Toronto


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